THE MICHIGAN DAILY
Tuesday, March 26, 1968
Page Two THE MICHIGAN DAILY Tuesday, March 26, 1968
'ELVIRA MADIGAN' ...
By DEBORAH LINDERMAN
Since it is not stylistically radical, Elvira Madigan is not an
"important" film, but it is a surprisingly good one, and it has an
interesting dimension which has gone mostly unremarked.
Apparently, its captivating features are extraordinary visual
beauty and its love-life choice. But the film has "taken a risk"
because for one thing, its beauty could be repellently cloying, and
for another, the legend of lovers who choose each other to the
exclusion of the world Is stock enough to be repellently corny.
The question is then, what rescues the film from incessant tedium,
and keeps its lyricism from being stupefying?
Compared to Swedish existential dramas of the sort made by
Bergmann or Mai Zeitterling, where there is a hyper-fertile pro-
liferation of torments and "philosophy," this film seems traditional
and unadventurous. But, it is saved from its own hazards by its
own kind of modest existential dimension. This dimension makes
the film contemporary in the mood and feeling it evokes, even
though all the pastoral beauty of shimmering meadows and golden
glades seem to plunge us into the idealized green world of a classic
The "legend" of the film is of a gorgeous pair of young lovers,
a soldier and a tightrope ballerina, who leave their bourgeois and
bohemian lives for the total consummation of themselves that they
find in each other. They live, social renegades, on love and the
earth's bounty. As their store of wine, fruit, cheese, and money
runs out, the options of separating and returning to the world is
impossible and so they kill themselves.
But this "old tale" - the pathos of happy lovers that end
up dead, of a love that dissipates itself - is not what the film is
"about." It is rather an exploration of a state of being. The lovely
pastoral idyll is, at the surface level, a corollary for that state.
At another level the idyll is undermined by the dark center of
that state which is destructive and already full of death. Thus
the "suicide" has a forceful inevitability - it is not the sudden
despairing act of lovers who have no exit, but the love going to
the natural end of its own tether.
Nor is the love perfect, and impossible only because it is an
escape from "reality." It is impossible because it is too complete,
like the voluptuous countryside. The appearance of Sixten Sparre's
friend, despite his insinuations about Sixten "letting down his
country," is not, I think, a crude intrusion from the bourgeois
world, but ironically a way of "telling" the quality of this love.
There are other ways of telling it, too. One of the first shots
of the film shows Elvira holding a mirror for Sixten while he
shaves. She deliberately reflects the sunlight into his eyes: the
idea of the blinding mirror image suggests a love full of the need
for total fusion, and an intensity that must spend itself in de-
struction. Some more obvious visual "signals" use destructive in-
struments: the pair makes love as Sixten holds the razor in his
hand; a bottle of wine spills out onto jheir picnic cloth over a
knife, a peasant woman butchers fish on a newspaper headlining
the pair's disappearance.
But besides these "pre-cursive" devices, the thing also has a
strong feel of destructiveness. For example, at its most lush and ,
poignant juncture (Elvira eating berries straight from the branch),
just as one suddenly rebels at the bursting opulence of all this,
there follows a scene of Elvira scrounging for mushrooms, then
vomiting them up. And the sickliness that has been ironically
undermining the idyll all along emerges bluntly at the surface.
The absolute global dimensions of the love are spoken by
Sixten who says that, for lovers who live in the grass, that blade
of grass which blinds you to the world can also be all the world.
The premise of the love is that there is never any question of
compromising, and its emotional and bodily violence overlap:
Elvira asks how the gun kills, saying "I thought we knew all there
was to know about the body." Her remark casts back on Sixten's
making, in another context, a catalogue of the layers the bayon-
ette must penetrate to reach the intestines (epidermis, dermis,
fat, fascia, subcutaneous tissues, muscle, intestine).
However, the lovers are not, star-crossed, though they are
doomed. Choice, not fate, controls them. And here again the exis-
tential dimension is always undercutting, and making us resist,
a deliberately established "myth" of the full flush of summer.
Elvira says about the tightrope, when you fall you fall; Sixten
says about his desertion, a person can choose more than once;
when asked by Sixten's comrade if she is happy, Elvira says there
are times when one must not ask what, things cost. The love is
all or nothing.
Yet these "charged" lines and images are distributed in an
almost random way beneath the fecund surface of the pastoral,
and work with "unnoticeable" (one may be accused of "finding
too much in it") counter-statements against this rich but con-
ventional myth of the love too pure for the world. The theme
music _ is Mozart's 21st Piano Concerto, rendingly, lingeringly
nostalgic, but a thorough uneasiness pervades the whole film. It
is no accident that the time is 1889 - the end of that century
finds an affinity with now in more than just camp - and that
the clothes which Sixten Sparre and Elvira Madigan wear are
Just Buy the Album
By RICHARD KELLER SIMON
The Roar of the Greasepaint
-The Smell of the Crowd is
about three times as long as it
should be. Nearly everything
except the music could be cut,
to the play's great advantage.
It begins like a musical ver-
sion of Waiting for Godot, and
ends like The Jackie Gleason
Show. If it could make up its
mind which it wanted to be, it
would make more sense. As it
is, Lucky and Pozzo become,
Jackie and Art Carney, and
what started out to be about
the revolution turns out to be
about the boy scouts.
The story line, by making a
claim to significance (through
heavy handed symbolism),
opens itself up to this type of
criticism. It alternates between
a funny-sad clown show, and
a stupid-inane collection of
bad gags. You go away feeling
that somehow you were sup-
posed to feel sad, when you
were not, or that you were
supposed to be moved, when
you were not.
But you do feel bored. It
really makes much more sense
to buy the Broadway cast al-
bum. Not only is the music
really excellent, but the lyrics
are clever. On the record you
can hear the lyrics; from the
Hill Aud. stage (even in the
center of the main floor) you
cannot. The audience left hum-
ming the music - for that,
along with the dirty gags, is all
that came through.
Although almost all of the
blame rests on the writers, the
actors deserve their share. Ed-
ward Earle (as Cocky) was the
one exception. His vaudeville
range may be limited (a little
Eddie Cantor, a little Jimmie
Durante and a little Charlie
Ch ap1in), but within that
range, he was delightful. His
line delivery was perfect; his
expressions were brilliant.
David C. Jones (as Sir) was
wretched. He can't act and he
can't sing. The role was quitei
clearly created for Cyril Rit-
chard (who played it on Broad-
way), and it very badly needed
him. So much was the part de-
signed for Ritchard that Act
Two contains a parody of lines
evening in a British Music Hall.
Quite by accident, it made the
same point as John Osborne's
play about music halls, The
Osborne's play combines
musical numbers, broadly smut-
ty jokes, and a story about a
music hall comedian. It makes
a point about the- decay of this
once interesting medium. The
Roar of the Greasepaint follows
this pattern. The musical num-
bers were obviously vaudevillian
in manner (and one, "Where
Would You Be Without Me" in
Act I, was exciting and beauti-
ful). The gags were the kind
that Grandpa used to like, but
Grandma didn't ("As soon as
you stop dating our mission-
aries, you can start eating our
daughters.") And the story fol-
lowed the career of two men, at
the sametime music hall types
But there the similarity ends.
Where Osborne's play makes a
point about lousy music halls,
The Roar of the Greasepaint
rather illustrates the point.
(Continued from Page 1)
would be no further inputs be-
sides the Regents."
Robertson felt such a condition
may be "awkward." He explained
that one of the functions of UC
would be to advise the president.
"It would be somewhat awkward
for the president to chair a com-
mittee which is to advise shin."
Spurr and Claude argued there;
would be a greater "prestige" to
UC if the president chaired it.
Claude explaincd, "The argu-
ment for putting tn-e finger on the
president was that this was a
matter of highly central import-
ance." He claimed the position
would be "symbolic" of TiC's
But no members refused direct-
ly Fleming's suggestion the word-
ing of the report be changed to
"the president or his representa-
tive" to chair UC
Fleming said, 'I probably would
not do it."
Fleming f>rther questioned the
report's provision that all UC
legislation be ratified by Student
Government Council and Faculty
Assembly before t becomes valid
Fleming suggested. "this leaves
a potential void" if one group
vetos a proposed piece of legisla-
Gretchen Groth. grad, said "ac-
ceptance by groiuos who would be
involved by it (&he legislation) is
more important than the time it
takes to ratify" or the possibility
of a legislative void.
Robertson agreed, claiming that
the major confrontations over
rules within the University in the
past have arisen because there
has been no viable form of ratifi-
Fleming explained if UC did not
legislate, the power would revert
back to the Regents.
Fleming said the committee had
produced a report that "was in
i1 (t ug
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Between Ann Arbor & Ypsilanti
JAMES . HENRY
Directed by Orson Welles, 1941
Is Loven...Turned Kill
COLOR FROM CRC
Last 2 Days
Thur.-"The President's Analyst"
"The swift and brutal biography of a power-mad
newspaper tycoon, a man of twisted greatness who
buys or bullies his way into everything but friends'
love and his nation's respect."-LIFE
7:00 & 9:05
"Perhaps the most beautiful movie in history."-Brendan Gill,
The New Yorker. "Exquisite is only the first word that surges in
my mind as on appropriate description of this exceptional film.
Its color is absolutely gorgeous. The use of music and, equally
eloquent, of silences and sounds
is beyond verbal description. The
performances are perfect-that is
the only word."---
B o sl e ny Crowther,
New, York Times.
"May well be the
most beautiful film
ever made." -
THURSDAY, March 28-
dir. Josef von Sternberg, 1934
Starring MARLENE DIETRICH
FRIDAY, March 29-
dir. Josef von Sternberg, 1932
Starring MARLENE DIETRICH